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Scarcity and Abundance: Are there limits to growth?
Posted: 10 April 2012

There appears to be a battle brewing in the global debate about the future; the future of society, business, and humanity, and the future of the world. We might call this a war of ideas, between the techno-utopians and the neo-Malthusians, a struggle for web-space and YouTube time between the rational optimists and the sustainability alarmists.

One the one hand, we have very real concerns with a rising population and increasingly exploited basic resources, reflected in the current 'super-cycle' of commodity prices. On the other, we have potentially limitless scientific and technological innovation to solve most, if not all the challenges that approach us. Plus we have the balancing forces of the market, allocating resources to those who have the means, and the efficiencies to serve the demand.

There is also the rising trend to better standards of living and reduction in poverty, something which happens naturally in a society where people are free to better themselves. But the recent excesses of thoughtless greed exhibited by the 'one percent' have rightly been denounced as unreasonable freedom to exploit others. A new trend to frugality might well give rise to an era of 'Conscious Capitalism', which, we would argue, simply improves the case for rational optimism in the long run.

I find the future particularly enigmatic when we consider that economics is primarily concerned with scarcity - allocating scarce resources efficiently. If we are convinced by Peter Diamandis that the future will be characterised by abundance, then do we need something to replace economics? Once we have utopian atomic manufacturing, do we still have an economy as we know it? Perhaps not, as we suggested in the MindBullet ONE ATOM TO RULE THEM ALL.

So now we hear about conferences around the global food, energy and water 'nexus' and how we are facing a mounting crisis. Perhaps the crisis is in our thinking and attitude to the future.

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Posted: 1 May 2012 at 20:19
Doug Vining The neo-Malthusians are far from silent. This report from the Royal Society sounds the klaxons of alarm, calling for 'cuts' in consumption and population:

It is interesting that they don't consider a world of abundance a future possibility at all. Paul Ehrlich, in particular, says we face 'catastrophic or slow motion' disasters unless population is brought under control and resources redistributed.
Posted: 26 April 2012 at 14:32
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